A wealth of local supporters showed up at the Scotch Plains Council meeting this week to praise the work of township attorney Brian Levine.
Mayor Nancy Malool announced at the meeting that Levine, along with Assistant Attorney Lawrence Woodruff, will be replaced in 2010 as part of a "restructuring of our legal department."
"This was one of the hardest decisions for me," Malool said. "Due to our recent economic situation, this was a decision we had to make."
Malool told Patch that the tough economy led to the elimination of the assistant attorney position this year. On the replacement of Levine, she would only say it was a move to make a change to the lineup.
"Brian Levine is a good attorney, and his replacement had nothing to do with his qualifications," she said. "The majority of council favored making a change."
Councilman Kevin Glover noted he felt the mayor's decision was justified.
"This is a new administration with different goals and objectives," he said. "She has a right to bring in her own team."
Levine will be replaced by Jeffrey Lehrer, who according to his Web site previously served as the township's assistant attorney from 1996 to 1998. Lehrer serves as part of the Warren-based DiFrancesco, Bateman, Coley, Yospin, Kunzman, Davis & Lehrer, P.C., which is headed by former state Senate President and acting governor Donald DiFrancesco. DiFrancesco, also a former Scotch Plains resident, served as township attorney from 1983 to 1999.
Lehrer will step in as township attorney starting March 2. Levine now moves on to serve as municipal court judge in Mount Olive.
"Levine is the best township attorney I've ever worked with," former longtime township manager Tom Atkins noted during the council meeting. "He was there for the township residents, and I appreciate that."
Atkins also called Woodruff "honest, truthful and compassionate."
Others who stepped up to speak about the two men included former Council members Paulette Coronato, Bill McClintock and Joan Papen and former Mayor Martin Marks.
"I've known Brian for over 40 years," Marks said, noting that the two had grown up together. "I would rise in support of Brian Levine today whether I'd known him for 40 years or 40 weeks. He's a great father, a dedicated husband and a tremendous friend. His ability to deal with our public was impeccable."
Marks continued to say that the township of Mount Olive was wise to "gobble him up."
"I comment the wisdom of that governing body," he said. "All governing bodies should be so wise."
Levine will continue to serve Scotch Plains as its special litigation counsel, and during a speech of his own he promised to continue to serve the township well in that capacity.
"I'll do it the same whether I'm township attorney or not," he said.